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Some dietary tips for the beginning vegetarian

If you've tried to switch to a vegetarian diet and found it tough going, don't despair. Vegetarian cookbook author Mary Taylor has some helpful tips on how to go about it.

"I think the rare person can just say, "Tomorrow I'm going to be a vegetarian,' and do it. But for most people, it is a very long process," says Taylor, whose own vegetarian lifestyle evolved over many years.

"And so, whether it's vegetarian or anything, number one, give yourself a break. If you're interested in changing to a vegetarian diet and don't do it properly one day or for a week or a month, then so what? Realize that you've had a lifetime to build your eating pattern, and so it's going to take a long time."

Here are some suggestions to make the journey easier:

Work beans and roughage into your diet slowly if you are not used to them.

Depriving yourself of a food such as meat or chicken that you really still want to eat is counterproductive. It's better to key in to what your body needs, make conscious choices and savor what you do eat.

Find good local sources _ books, restaurants, knowledgeable people _ to help you learn more about your new style of eating. Beans and soy products in particular take some preparation know-how to make them appealing.

Initially, at least, try to avoid situations that make it difficult to break old habits; focus on new dietary choices.

Don't become so intent on your new dietary and lifestyle choices you make others feel uncomfortable. From Taylor's point of view, "I would prefer to go ahead and eat something (rather than offend a host)."